While recruiters have been warning employees about being too transparent for some time, managers seem to be the ones who are listening. According to a study by Deloitte, 60 percent of managers believe that businesses have a right to know how employees portray themselves or their companies on sites like Facebook and MySpace
“While the decision to post videos, pictures, thoughts, experiences and observations is personal, a single act can create far reaching ethical consequences for individuals as well as employers," said Sharon Allen, chairman of the board, Deloitte LLP. "Therefore, it is important for executives to be mindful of the implications of this connected world and to elevate the discussion about the risks associated with it to the highest levels of leadership.”
The percentage is lower among employees but still significant. Forty-seven percent believed those managers might be right. However, that number dropped to 37 percent among workers ages 18-34. Meanwhile, 74 percent of employees do understand that they could damage their employers by their behavior online despite almost absent online policies.
Most employers are not educating employees
27% of employees said their companies talk about leveraging social media.
22% of employees said their companies have formal guidelines for their use.
22% of employees said their leadership team uses social networking to communicate.
17% of employees said their company has a program to monitor and mitigate risks.
So what's the solution? Employers and employees are best served with a strong internal communication plan and a education model that distinguishes personal behavior from professional behavior online. There is a difference, because there is no difference between "real life" and "online" connections.
Some employees, especially those who act as spokespeople, already understand how to successfully blend professional and personal relationships. Most employees, however, do not. As a result, it might be best to encourage two accounts — one that represents the company and one that does not. While there is sure to be some cross over, such cross over is likely to be as limited as real life encounters (which were never held up to the same level of scrutiny).
In some ways, some employers and managers are to blame for the current concern. Just as the survey reveals, there are plenty of companies hoping to leverage their employees personal accounts, but very few seem ready to accept the apparent "bad" with the "good."
The solution is not to create policing policies over employees, but rather to clearly define the difference between personal view and company representation. You know ... remind them to take off their uniforms before entering the bar.